« AnteriorContinuar »
ters and a series of complications dif- Polish Colonel Rasinski, a worthy ficult to manage ; and that might comrade of the heroic Poniatowsky, have ended by wearying the reader. are much more lifelike and interesting. Convinced that his design was too am- The mysteries of the tale, and the bitious, he reduced it; limiting himself, difficulties which of course beset the to the Russian campaign-itself no paths of the various pairs of lovers, trifle to grapple with. This plan he are pretty well cleared up and dissuccessfully carried out. He had pelled at the end of the third volume. hoped to do so, he says, in three The fourth, which includes the worst volumes, but was compelled to portion of the retreat, is perhaps the extend his limits, and fill four. most interesting ; partly for the very The necessity is not obvious. In reason that we have got rid of the our opinion, “ 1812" would gain private entanglements of the principal by compression (especially of the first personages, who are seen grouped tohalf) within the limits originally pro- gether, and, including a lady, strugposed. Although some well-drawn gling against the frightful hardships and well-sustained characters are and dangers of that unparalleled early introduced, and although the military disaster. It will give an idea reader obtains, in the very first of the tangled nature of Mr Rellstab's chapter, a mystery to ruminate, whilst plot and under-plots (all finally unof incident there is certainly an abun- ravelled with considerable cleverness) dance, the real fascination of the book to state, that in the foremost row resides in the account of the advance stand five gentlemen and three ladies ; to Moscow, of the conflagration of the that each of the ladies is beloved, at city, and the subsequent retreat. The one period or other of the story, by great power and truthfulness with at least two of the gentlemen, who, which these events are depicted, con- on the other hand, are all five bosom vey the impression that the writer friends, and, in this capacity, make the was an eyewitness of the scenes he so most magnanimous sacrifices of love well describes. As this was not the to friendship. Manifestly, the only case, we cannot doubt that Mr way of getting out of such a fix, is to Rellstab obtained much information kill freely, which Mr Rellstab accordfrom some who made that terrible ingly does, the retreat from Moscow campaign. He acknowledges his affording him fine opportunities, great obligation to Count Segur's re- whereof he unsparingly avails himself. markable history.
The closing chapter shows us the very As regards Mr Rellstab's plot, its numerous dramatis personce reduced ingenuity is undeniable, and, in fact, to two happy couples, dwelling, turtleexcessive. More ingenious than pro- dove fashion, in a garden near Dresbable, the coincidences are too nume den, and to an elderly Polish lady, rous and striking; the artist's hand on the wing for America. Having is too visible. The characters are too thus told the end-a matter of very obliging in their exits and entrances; slight importance to the interest of ever vanishing and reappearing just the book-we will take a glance at the at the right moment, and meeting commencement. each other in the most unexpected The opening scene introduces us to and extraordinary manner. It is a young German, who, after twelve difficult to lose sight of the wires; months passed in Italy at the concluthe movements of the puppets are sion of his academical studies, is on manifestly strained for the exhibitor's his way back to his native land. The convenience. One never feels sure entrance of Napoleon's armies is once who is the hero of the book; the young more converting Northern Germany German most prominent in its earlier into a vast camp, and Ludwig Rosen portion, and who is intended for the is hurrying homewards to the protecprincipal character, is a tame youth, tion of his sister and widowed mother, and cuts quite a secondary figure in then living in retirement at Dresden. the latter volumes. His friend Upon his journey to Italy, a year preBernard, a joyous artist, whom cir- viously, he had encountered in the cumstances convert into a private valley of Aosta a party of travellers, soldier, and his commander the to one of whom, a young and very lovely woman, he restored a bracelet had expressed. Ludwig drew nearer; she had dropped upon the highway, but as the lady - of whose identity Although this led to no acquaintance with her he sought he grew each or intercourse beyond the exchange moment more convinced — had her of a few sentences, the beauty of the face turned from him, he made the cirforeigner (for such she certainly was, cuit of the crowd to obtain a sight of although of what country it was hard her countenance. Heavens, it was to decide,) had left a very strong im- herself! Her features were paler and pression upon the young man's memory more anxious than at their last meetand imagination. During his resi- ing, and a tear trembled in her beaudence in Italy he sought her every teous blue eye. Yielding to an irrewhere, but in vain. He could not sistible impulse, Ludwig approached trace her route ; ignorant of her name, her, resolved, at risk of offence, to he knew not for whom to inquire. greet the lovely being whose appaOnce more upon the threshold of Italy, rition had gladdened his entrance about to quit the romantic land where into the glorious land he now was her image had so often filled his day- quitting, and to remind her of the dreams, he pauses at the outskirts of moment of their first meeting and Duomo d' Ossola, the last Italian too speedy separation. He was entown, to take a fond and final look at couraged to this step by beholding her the paradise he is on the point of unaccompanied, save by an old servant leaving. Travelling on foot, his seated upon the box, and by an elderly motions depend but on his own woman, to all appearance an attencaprice, and he leaves the high-road dant, or humble companion. He hastily to ascend an adjacent hillock, com- stepped forward out of the crowd, manding a fine view. The blast of a which had fallen a little back. As he post-horn and crack of whips break in did so, the lady's glance met his, and upon his meditations, and an open. so sudden and joyful a glow overtravelling carriage rolls rapidly along spread her features, that he could not the causeway. In one of two wo- for an instant doubt her recognition men who occupy it, Rosen thinks of him. He was about to salute and he recognises his incognita, but before address her, when, with startling haste, he can reach the road, the vehicle is she exclaimed in French, Here is in the town. It is evening, and my brother!' and hurried to meet Rosen, persuaded the travellers will him. Before Ludwig, astounded at halt for the night at Duomo d' Ossola, what he took for an extraordinary mishurries after them to the open square take, had time to utter a word, she conwhere the guardhouse and the principal tinued in Italian, and in a loud tone, inn are situated. The carriage stands so that all around might hear and at the door of the latter, but fresh understand, Thank God, brother, you horses are being harnessed, and the are come at last!' Then, in a rapid youth's hopes of passing the night whisper, and in German, 'I am lost, under the same roof with the lady she said, if you deny me. With of his thoughts, and of improving prompt decision, she turned to the his very slight acquaintance with her, officer, took the paper from his hand begin to vanish in vapour. An unex- and presented it to Ludwig. "This pected incident again gives them con- gentleman would not admit the regusistence :
larity of our passport because you "A large circle of idlers had col. were not present,' said she, reverting lected round the travellers. An offi- to the French language. See what cer, issuing from the guardhouse, a trouble you give us, dear brother, by paper in his hand, made his way your romantic partiality for byways! through the crowd and approached You are Count Wallersheim,' she the carriage-door: on his appearance whispered in German. the young lady got out, and took a few "Startled and confounded as Ludsteps to meet him. The officer bowed wig was by this strange adventure, he and addressed her with great courtesy; retained sufficient presence of mind to but his manner, and the deprecating understand that it was in his power to shrug of his shoulders, indicated inabi- render important service to the beaulity to comply with some wish she tiful woman who stood anxious and VOL. LXIV.-NO. CCCXCIV.
tearful before him. Readily taking frontier, she has confided to him his cue, his reply was prompt. Be as much as she proposes at that time not uneasy, dear sister,' he said, I to reveal of her exceptional position. will explain to the gentleman.' He This does not, however, amount to a turned to the Frenchman, and in order disclosure of her family, name, or even to gain time and some insight into the of her country. She bids him call her circumstances of the case, I must Bianca, but with that he must rest beg yon, sir,' he said to repeat your content; and he is unable to conjecobjections to our passport. Ladies ture, from the slight accent with which have little experience in such matters.' she speaks German, or from the lan
I have now, replied the officer not guage, to him unknown, in which she the slightest objection to make. You converses with her companions, to are set down in the passport as the what nation she belongs. She inticompanion of the countess your sister, mates that her destiny is connected and yet you were not with her. The with the political events of the period, passport was, consequently, not in that more than her own life is in peril, order. The countess certainly told — and accepts his enthusiastic offer me you had left her only for a short to sustain his assumed character, and time, to ramble on foot, and that you to escort her, as her brother, to Gerwould rejoin her beyond the town; many. Her companions are her goubut at frontier places, like Duomo vernante and an old trusty servant, and d' Ossola, our orders are so strict that she would travel in safety were they I should have been compelled to de- the sole sharers of her secret. But, tain the young lady till you made your unfortunately, a fourth person posappearance. Rest assured, however, sesses it, who accompanied her as far count, that I should have held it my as Milan, under the name of Count duty to have had you sought upon Wallersheim,-endeavoured to abuse the road to Sempione, to inform you the fraternal intimacy to which he of the obstacle to your sister's pro- was admitted, and was indignantly gress. I strongly advise you to re- repulsed. Bianca took an opportumain with the countess so long as you nity to leave him behind, and is well are in this district, or you will inevi- assured that out of revenge he turned tably encounter delay and annoyance. traitor. The pursuers must already Once over the Swiss frontier, you are be upon her track, - each moment an out of our jurisdiction, and travelling order for her arrest may overtake her. is easier.'
And she does not conceal from Ludwig "Ludwig stood mute with astonish- that, by accompanying her, he runs ment, whilst the old servant got off a heavy risk. This the enamoured the box,- took from him, without youth despises,-insists on acting as observation, the light travelling pouch her champion and defender, and keeps that hung on his shoulder,-laid it in his seat in her carriage. That night the carriage, and asked him if he they encounter various perils on the would be pleased to get in. Scarce Simplon; and, finally, are locked up conscious of what he said, he gave by an avalanche in a mountain gallery, the officer his hand, and uttered a few whence they are not extricated till polite words. The servant put down morning. In the course of the night's the carriage steps, – the gallant adventures, Ludwig obtains ground Frenchman assisted the lady, who had to suspect the existence of nearer ties muffled herself in her veil, to ascend between his two female companions them, - bowed low, and repeated his than those of mistress and servant. wishes for their pleasant journey. The excitement and anxiety of the Ludwig, almost without knowing what time, however, prevent his dwelling he was abont, took his place by the upon this suspicion: the carriage is side of the enigmatical fair one, whose patched up, and the party reach Brieg, duenna had discreetly transferred her- in the Valais, where they are comself to the opposite seat, and the pelled to pause whilst their vehicle is carriage rattled through the streets." put in better repair. Whilst Bianca
Once out of town, the mysterious reposes, Ludwig strolls out of the stranger greets Ludwig as her de- town. At about a mile from it, on liverer; and, before they cross the his return, he is overtaken by a horse
man at fall gallop, followed, at an in- wise we should see their carriage on terval of a few hundred yards, by a the highway.' second cavalier, and by a carriage at “ Is the cross-road dangerous ?'. a pace nearly as rapid. This head "Not a bit. Only a little rough. long speed strikes Ludwig as remark- In an hour at most we will catch them, able. Before he has time to reflect on if your Excellencies will bear me its possible cause, he is addressed, in harmless for passing the post staFrench, by the first horseman.
tion.' 5. Do you belong to Brieg, " That will I,' replied the officer sir?'
in the carriage ; and what is more, "No,' replied Ludwig. I am a you shall have the twenty gold napotraveller, and have just rambled out leons I promised you if you caught of the town,
the fugitives before they reached “Can you tell us if a carriage and Brieg. Now on, and at speed.' four, with two ladies and a gentle “The carriage dashed forward, the man, and a servant on the box, has horsemen galloping on either side.” arrived there?
The above short extracts contain " Ludwig was on the point of what may be termed the root of the answering No, when the post-chaise story, whence arise and branch forth came up and stopped. It contained a a host of subsequent adventures. The civilian and a French officer. The misdirection given by Ludwig to former leaned out of the window, and Bianca's purguers, exercises, esperepeated the horseman's question. cially, an extraordinary influence on This gave Ludwig, who could not his subsequent fortunes. In the first doubt the inquiries had reference to instance, however, it gives the lady Bianca, time to devise a safe answer. time to escape on foot from the inn. He remembered that the post-house Her two attendants, who are in fact was at the commencement of the her father and mother, Russian nobles town, and that persons in haste would in disguise, join her at a place apbe likely to change horses there with- pointed without the town, and Ludout going to the inn at all. This de- wig is to do the same, but misses his cided his reply.
way, and is unable to find the fugi6. Certainly,' said he quickly, 'snch tives. Already deeply in love with a carriage arrived some hours ago the interesting stranger, he is in with a broken axle, I believe, which despair at thus losing her; the more was mended here. But about a so as he is still ignorant of her name, quarter of an hour back, just as I left and his chances of tracing her are the town, the strangers resumed their even smaller than a year previously. journey.'
After long but fruitless search, he 6. The devil l' exclaimed the man pursues his journey northwards in in the carriage : "which road did they company with three Polish officers, take?'
Rasinski, Jaromir, and Boleslaw, 6. The only one they conld take, with whom he becomes acquainted at by Sion to Geneva,' replied Ludwig. an inn, and is soon very intimate. "You see it yonder, following the bank The Poles are on their way to of the Rhone.'
Dresden, to join Napoleon, then daily "Can we not cut across ?' inquired expected there, to open the Russian the traveller hastily.
campaign. The new friends travel " To be sure,' said the postilion, for some time in company. At answering for Ludwig; “just below Heidelberg an acquaintance puts a this we can turn sharp to the left; and newspaper into Ludwig's hand, and if your Excellencies are not afraid to calls his attention to a singular adverford the Rhone, even though the water tisement. It is a letter from Bianca should come into the carriage a little, to her unknown deliverer, couched in we avoid the town altogether, and terms intelligible to him alone, thanksave a good half-hour. If your Excel- ing him, expressing regret at their lencies allow me to take that road, sudden departure, and a wish that never fear but I will overtake the they may again meet, but giving no travellers. They must now just be clue by which to find her. More passing through yonder wood, other. deeply in love than ever, he proceeds to Dresden, where his invalid mother, in his regiment after its uniform bad and his beautiful sister Marie, an served the purpose of escape from enthusiast for German nationality and Dresden. Once smuggled out of the freedom, welcome the wanderer with city, it was most natural to let them delight. There he also meets his resume their civilian character, and friend Bernard, just returned from a seek concealment in a foreign country, tour in England and northern Europe. if necessary, till the danger was over, On a pleasure excursion with a party and till they and their offences had of ladies and Polish officers, Ludwig been forgotten in the stirring events is seen and recognised by the man and perpetual changes of the times, whom he had misdirected in the Valais. This of course would not have This is a Frenchman, named Beau- answered Mr Rellstab's purpose; but caire, formerly secretary to Bianca's he should have given more cogent father, now the confidant and tool of reasons for the continuance in the Baron de St Luces, one of Napoleon's service of two men, one of whom most trusted agents,-half diplomatist, declares that he holds the gallows or half policeman, with a dash of the the galleys as agreeable alternatives as spy. Beaucaire has Ludwig arrested; the life of a private sentinel. Bernard and one of the Poles rescue The merest outline, the most skelehim by the strong hand from the ton-like sketch of the plots and undergensdarmes, who are taking him to plots of “1812” would fill a long prison. But although at liberty he is article, and prove, upon the whole, still in the greatest peril. The police dry and of small interest. Nor is it, seek him every where. It appears we have already said, by any means that Bianca's father is a most impor- our opinion that the plot is the best tant secret agent of Russia; that when part of Mr Rellstab's romance. By flying from Italy he had with him giving its details, we should be doing papers of the greatest weight and less to exhibit his talent, and to value, and that death is the doom of interest our readers, than by proceedLudwig for aiding his escape. Bernard, ing at once to the extraction and who has become implicated by the translation of one or two of its many vigorous assistance he rendered his remarkable scenes and passages. friend, is liable to the same severe During the advance of the French punishment. They apply to Colonel army into Russia, when the French Rasinski for advice and succour. The Emperor, eager to engage the enemy, best he is able to do for them is to had the mortification of seeing them enlist them in his regiment of Polish constantly recede on his approach, lancers, and pack them off to the steadily avoiding an action, Polish depot at Warsaw. Under assumed Jews were frequently employed as names, and in the ranks of an army spies, and sent forward to watch and of six hundred thousand men, dis report the movements of a foe whose guised also in the coarse garb of pri. plan of campaign even Napoleon's vate dragoons, detection appears all genius was unable to penetrate. The but impossible. To console them as invasion of Russia, and anticipated much as may be for this separation triumph of the French host, were from friends and country, to share in hailed with delight by the great mass a campaign with which they as Ger- of the Polish nation, who considered mans cannot sympathise, and to the their liberation from the Muscovite cheerful endurance of whose hardships yoke, and the re-establishment of they are stimulated neither by patriot- Polish nationality, to be quite certain ism nor ambition, Rasinski attaches when once Napoleon took the field on the two friends to his person as their behalf. But these feelings of orderlies; and throughout their whole patriotic exultation were not parperiod of service they associate, when taken by the Jews of Poland, at off duty, on terms of perfect equality least not to an extent that rendered and intimacy, with him and the cap- them proof against the allurements tains Jaromir and Boleslaw. The of Russian gold. As usual, the guileincident of the enlistment is rather less Israelites were at the service of forced. There is no apparent reason the best bidder. Russian rubles and why Rasinski should detain his friends French crowns were equally welcome